If you don't know what a Google My Business listing is, then I'm afraid that you have some catching up to do. Fortunately, after 4+ years of doing SEO for local businesses, creating an optimized Google My Business listing is relatively simple.
Here's my local SEO guide for business owners who want their site to be the one that shows up when they search for a restaurant, real estate agency, or whatever industry they serve. Let's get started!
Creating and Verifying Your GMB Listing
For those who already know how to create and verify a Google My Business listing, you can skip this part. This part is meant for those who are just starting out and don't know where to begin.
So the first thing you'll want to do is go to https://www.google.com/business/ and click the "Manage Now" button.
From there, you'll need to sign in or create a Google account. Then, Google will allow you to either find your business online or create a profile if they can't find your business name. Make sure that, when you're filling out your information, everything is accurate, from the business name to the location.
Next, you want to verify the Google My Business listing. Google will either send you a postcard, call you, or send you an email. It's important that you don't change any of the information you filled out previously during the verification process.
Email: Go to your GMB profile and click "Verify Now". Choose "Email" from the list of verification options and then, check your email address. Verify your business via the button provided in the email.
Postcard: Choose "Postcard" on your GMB profile as the verification option. Make sure that the address the postcard is being sent to is the correct one. If it isn't, change it before you request the postcard. Then, whenever you're ready send the postcard. Most postcards arrive within 2 weeks. During this time period, do not change any of the information on your GMB profile because this will delay the verification process.
Once you receive your postcard, click the "Verify Location" button from the menu and then click the "Verify Now" button. From there, enter the 5-digit code that is found on your postcard and submit.
Phone Number: Choose "Verify by Phone" on your GMB profile as the verification options. A message will be sent to your business number which will contain the code. Then, you can verify your GMB listing by entering the 5-digit code in your profile.
Now, let's get into optimizing your GMB listing...
Now that your profile is verified, it's time to get you noticed so that Google will put you in their 3-pack results. The 3-pack is the first three business listings that show up when someone searches a query like "law firms near me".
These types of search queries are the ones that Google will show you because they think that these three businesses will fulfill your search intent. But with so many businesses to choose from, how do you stand out in Google's eyes?
The first step to optimization is making sure that all the proper information is filled out. These include the:
The business name should be the name that you have on your signs and legal documents. Don't use keywords in your business name because Google penalizes business names that are keyword-stuffed.
The categories allow you to tell Google what your company does. For instance, if you're an internet marketing agency, you can put that as your primary category. You can add secondary categories as well, such as website designer or digital marketing.
However, your customers will not see these additional categories. Do not stuff as many categories as you can. This will confuse Google on what your business does and make you seem spammy.
Like the business name and category section, you fill this out at the beginning. However, you should only fill this out if you have a physical location that customers can come to. If you don't have a physical location but you do offer your services, then fill out the services area with which areas you provide service.
Only fill out the service area if you don't have a physical location. Some businesses do both services in different locations and also service at their own location.
Add the weekly hours of operation for Monday through Sunday. You can add special hours on your GMB profile for days when your business is either closed, is closing early, or will be open longer. Use these for holidays and other special events you might have going on throughout the year.
If you want to see how many people are calling from the GMB listing, use a call tracking number as your primary phone number. Otherwise, use your local business phone number.
All URLs you use must be live by the time they're entered into the GMB listing. To track how many people come to your website through your listing, you can use Google Analytics ' UTM tracking codes.
The different types of URLs you can add are a website URL, appointment URL, and if you're a restaurant, a menu URL.
The website URL should link to your homepage. If you have multiple locations for your business, then you should have multiple GMB listings. Each GMB listing should have a website URL that leads to its own separate page for each address.
The description allows businesses to tell first-time customers what they do. You can write up to 750 characters, but Google only shows the first 250 characters. This should not be a sales pitch, but rather a way to tell visitors more about your business.
Go to your "Info" tab and click on "Description". There, create a brief introduction explaining what your business does. Only focus on the most important terms and do not keyword stuff. Do not add any URLs and don't treat this as an advertisement.
A well-written description will convert more customers than a sales pitch on your GMB listing. You're not trying to convince them to buy your service. Chances are if they've stumbled across your GMB listing, they're already interested in your service.
So, get your main point across. Use only your most important keywords and above all, make sure it's descriptive. You want the visitor to walk away more informed than he came in.
Photos also play a big role in your GMB listing's performance. They show the visitor what your business looks like in real life. Your photos provide their first impression, so make it a good one.
Make sure you upload:
**Cover Photo-**This is the first photo your customers will see
Photos of Your Team at Work
If you're a restaurant, make sure to also upload pictures of the food & drink that you serve.
So now that we've built our GMB listing, we want to get it ranked in Google's 3-pack. If we can't get the site ranked in the 3-pack, we at least want the listing to be ranked within the pack of business results.
To do this, we're going to need to focus on:
Updating the GMB Listing
NAP Citations are references to your business's name, address, and phone number, thus explaining the acronym NAP. These NAP Citations are present in directories, news articles, blog posts, and etc. They're most common in directories, though.
It's imperative that these citations stay consistent because Googles considers number of citations you have, the accuracy of the data you provide, and the platforms to determine your ranking.
Here are some directories that you can start out with:
From here, look for local directories within your city as well as niche-specific directories to increase your NAP citations.
Local Links are links that come from local industry-related sites. This could be from the local news station's website or a blogger based in your city. The best ways to get these local links are from PR campaigns and traditional outreach.
For example, if you're a juice bar based in Dallas, you could reach out to a Dallas-based blogger who's written a piece on the best juice bars in Dallas. Offer some type of incentive so that they'll include you in the list. An example could be free juices for a month.
If you want to do a PR campaign, you'll need to be a bit more creative. However, the payoff is much better than traditional outreach. Because you're focused on increasing brand awareness, you need to do something that will catch people's attention.
Take the juice bar example. If you want to catch the attention of third-party sites, giving out free smoothies to kids after school and providing a study area for students could garner the attention of your local news channel.
Whether you decide to invest in a PR campaign or go the traditional route and do some outreach, local linkbuilding can be a very useful way to grow your business's site online. Combine this with NAP citations and you have a very dangerous combo.
Updating GMB: The final thing you want to do is always update your Google My Business listing. You can respond to reviews and questions, create content in your "posts" section, and correct any mistakes made to your listing.
Google looks at the quality and relevancy of your reviews, so asking your past customers to update your GMB listing with a fresh review always helps out. You can also respond to any questions that one might have thanks to Google's Q&A feature.
You also want to update those who stumble across your page with deals and events that are going on, giving them an incentive to keep exploring. Google also allows others to suggest edits to information they might find wrong on the GMB listing, so if there are any errors, you can fix them and improve your business's overall SEO.
There you have it, guys! This is my guide to local SEO and optimizing your GMB listing for Google's 3-pack.
I know this isn't everything that goes into local SEO. There are other factors that go towards ranking on Google's 3-pack, but the GMB listing is a crucial part of this process which is why I thought I'd share the procedure I use to optimize local businesses.
Other than that, I hope you guys have a great day and don't forget to wash your hands!